"Capitalism: A Love Story" is the latest from controversial documentary filmmaker Michael Moore. This time, Moore examines both the financial crisis of 2007/2008 and tries to figure out just where we might be going from here.
The film starts with a filmstrip explaining the fall of Rome, then goes into a brief discussion of the sadness of the housing market - both the human suffering and those on the other side, such as the owner of a company called "Condo Vultures", who compares what he does to a drone flying over a battlefield. He tours one FL property, and shows the damage done to abandoned houses all around the area.
From there, it's a matter of Moore offering a brief history lesson in order to try to find where it all started to go wrong. He stops on Regan, who brought in Merrill Lynch chairman Don Regan as Treasury Secretary (he later became Chief of Staff.) In one clip, Regan actually leans over to the President and tells him to "speed it up". Soon after, the industry of the nation slowly started to be dismantled. The economic problems that resulted were massive and skyrocketing household debt soon ensued.
Sully, the pilot who saved a flight by landing it in the Hudson, was presented as a hero (and rightly so.) However, what wasn't brought up in the media is how Sully went in front of a shocked congress and told him how pilots are poorly compensated and the situation has gotten worse. The clip ends with Sully noting, to a stunned Congress, "Do not think I exaggerate when I say that I do know a single airline pilot wants his or her children to follow in their footsteps."
One-after-another, the stories shock and sadden: a Dallas bank took out a life insurance policy on an employee who had cancer and did not tell his wife, then when tragedy occurred, it was paid nearly five million. It was only after the insurance company accidentally told her that the company was being paid that she became aware. We're then told that this is not unusual and that many MAJOR companies are doing this.
The second half of the film ventures towards Wall Street and asks where did it all go wrong. Moore looks into complex derivatives and securitization, as well as ridiculously complex mortgage properties and a push to use the home as an ATM that ended in disaster. I'm surprised that Moore doesn't chronicle the situation at Harvard, where White House economic advisor Larry Summers approved the use of interest rate swaps that proved so toxic that the school had to pay a billion to banks to end them. It also had to borrow money (related story from Bloomberg) and stop an expansion project.
Will Congress do anything? Probably not: a former Countrywide Mortgage staffer talks about providing discounted mortgages to VIPs, including senator Chris Dodd. The staffer from Countrywide talks about being the "VIP Guy" and offering mortgages to those who were called "Friends of Angelo" (named after CEO Angelo Mozillo). The FBI warned against an epidemic of mortgage fraud, no one listened. Moore doesn't get to (and really, this could probably have been a 5 hour film) whistleblower Harry Markopolos, who screamed to the SEC about what Madoff was doing. They didn't care and repeatedly ignored him. With a number of former Goldman Sachs workers having found their way into government, they worked their way from the inside. Heads they win, tails we lose.
Will Congress do anything? Once again, probably not: Elizabeth Warren, head of the oversight committee for the financial bailout, tells Moore that she doesn't know where the money went. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur is interviewed in DC and states to Moore, "The people here really aren't in charge." A call to (then) Treasury Secretary Paulson's office results in them hanging up once Moore says his name. What does Moore do? He, in Moore fashion, rents a Brinks truck and tries to go from bank-to-bank to ask for the country's money back.
"Capitalism: A Love Story" is a deeply saddening, deeply troubling effort from Moore. Whatever one's thoughts on Moore, the messages and information that the film is offering are important and worth hearing.
VIDEO: "Capitalism: A Love Story" is presented by Anchor Bay in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen by Anchor Bay. The presentation boasts good video quality, although picture quality does understandably vary given the varied source material. Sharpness and detail during the newly filmed footage looked just fine, as the picture looked consistently crisp and clean during these segments. No instances of edge enhancement, pixelation or print flaws were seen, and colors looked spot-on throughout the show.
SOUND: Crisp, clean Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation, although certainly dialogue-driven.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes and both the teaser/theatrical trailers for the film.
Final Thoughts: A powerful and troubling effort from Moore, "Capitalism: A Love Story" is an important look at present economic situation and where we may be headed from here. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality, as well as a couple of minor extras. Recommended.
The Film B+